New Twitter owner Elon Musk is granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts, which online safety experts predict will spur a rise in harassment, hate speech, and misinformation.
The billionaire’s announcement came after he asked in a poll posted to his timeline to vote on reinstatements for accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam”.
The yes vote was 72 per cent.
“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God”.
Musk used the same Latin phrase after posting a similar poll last weekend before reinstating the account of former President Donald Trump, which Twitter had banned for encouraging January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
Trump has said he won’t return to Twitter but has not deleted his account.
Such online polls are anything but scientific and can easily be influenced by bots.
In the month since Musk took over Twitter, groups that monitor the platform for racist, anti-Semitic and other toxic speech say it’s been on the rise on the world’s de facto public square.
That has included a surge in racist abuse of World Cup soccer players that Twitter is allegedly failing to act on.
The uptick in harmful content is in large part due to the disorder following Musk’s decision to lay off half the company’s 7500-person workforce, fire top executives, and institute a series of ultimatums that prompted hundreds more to quit.
Contractors responsible for content moderation were also let go.
Among those resigning over a lack of faith in Musk’s willingness to keep Twitter from devolving into a chaos of uncontrolled speech was Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth.
Major advertisers have also abandoned the platform.
On October 28, the day after he took control, Musk tweeted that no suspended accounts would be reinstated until Twitter formed a “content moderation council” with diverse viewpoints to consider the cases.
On Tuesday, he said he was reneging on that promise because he’d agreed to it at the insistence of “a large coalition of political-social activist groups” who later “broke the deal” by urging advertisers to stop giving Twitter their business.
A day earlier, Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, banned in January for violating the platform’s COVID-19 misinformation policies.
A report from the European Union published on Thursday said Twitter took longer to review hateful content and removed less of it this year than in 2021.
The report was based on data collected before Musk acquired Twitter as part of an annual evaluation of online platforms’ compliance with the bloc’s code of conduct on disinformation.
It found Twitter assessed just over half of the notifications it received about illegal hate speech within 24 hours, down from 82 per cent in 2021.